Few record labels commit thoroughly to a specific genre of music or go out of their way to champion specific aesthetic qualities in music anymore, and for good reason: it’s not a sound financial move to just release one kind of record over and over. It makes Burger Records’ commitment to releasing dingy, home-recorded garage rock records somewhat admirable: When you hear an artist is on Burger Records, you have a decent idea of what their album will sound like. Having said that, the Burger guys caught me off guard with Gap Dream. Here’s a label that ostensibly deals with garage rock, that has released things from the likes of King Tuff and La Luz…putting out the home-recorded, keyboard-driven project of a guy who counts Giorgio Moroder and Brian Eno as his influences? It sounds weird, but that’s what we have in Shine Your Light: a spacey synth-pop record that is intermittently charming when it isn’t frustrating as hell.
As refreshing as the album could be for some listeners, nothing about Shine Your Light is especially new or groundbreaking. Gabriel Fulvimar—the man behind the Gap Dream moniker—would be the first to tell you about the influence that, say, Can or Brian Eno have on his work, and there are elements of that there. However, what really defines Shine Your Light are the very classic structures and arrangements of the songs here. Songs like the title track have a very traditional feel about them, which breeds a sense of familiarity. When it works, as it does on the title track and on the especially Moroder-influenced “Love Is Not Allowed,” it shows promise and demonstrates Fulvimar’s skill at crafting sentimental, affecting songs without allowing them to become saccharine.
That’s not enough to carry an album, though, and Shine Your Light doesn’t run out its course without a few clunkers. At times, Fulvimar seems content to just let a song plod through at one speed, hoping that his lovelorn, earnest lyrics will carry the weight of the tune. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; it’s a trick any number of songwriters have deployed over the years. However, Fulvimar’s limitations as a singer—coupled with his insistence on performing with such a detached demeanor that even Calvin Johnson would have told him to wake the fuck up—completely undercut any sincere sentiment that may have been present in his songs. Fulvimar’s cadence also unintentionally reveals how far Fulvimar has to go as a composer. He has a gift for arranging songs for sure, but the melodic content of Shine Your Light suffers upon repeat listens.
It’d be a little too easy (and inaccurate) to say that Shine Your Light is a bad album; there’s certainly a lot of potential on display here. What it is, though, is frustrating. For every delightful moment Fulvimar has on the album, he has another that makes you wish he had tried something else, something different. It’s good to see an artist as assured with their project and core sound as Fulvimar is with Gap Dream, but there’s still some work that needs to be done.